Who Am I If I’m Not Achieving?

Courtney Branson
6 min readSep 14, 2022

Perfection feeds on inauthentic, society-driven, external validation𑁋the why and how of being a recovering perfectionist.

Photo by Anton Darius on Unsplash

For the past few years, I’ve been a recovering perfectionist. Letting go of perfect means shedding my reliance on external validation and truly getting comfortable in my own skin.

Starting in childhood, my day lived and died by words of affirmation. The easy child, the teacher’s pet, translated into the boss’ favorite at work. My brain unintentionally translated positive validation to worth. It led me to give everything no matter what. Giving meant I was deserving, not inferior.

I never saw perfectionism as bad. Instead, I saw it as the thing that made me, me. I couldn’t deliver below a certain bar. Fear would claw its way in when I tried, pulling me back to work. To do that, I made personal sacrifices and envied people who didn’t make the same sacrifices.

Over the past twenty years, I’ve had heart palpitations, recurring strep, acne, weight fluctuations, malnutrition, and depression. These were physical and emotional manifestations of perfection.

Despite them, I linked my quest for perfection to my identity. It was a validation loop. I’d work myself to pieces, get promoted, work myself to pieces, get a raise. I kept thinking one day it would be enough, yet, enough didn’t come. So when I got feedback that I was hard on myself, all I could think was𑁋Who am I if I’m not a high-achiever?

I made the mistake of showing perfect so much reverence. But, unfortunately, so did everyone around me.

Companies benefit from perfectionists𑁋we check our work, care about our reputation, take on multiple roles, and don’t complain about late nights. Perfectionists scramble to ensure we’re always relevant. There’s a benefit, but expecting perfection also means avoiding authenticity and failure for innovation. It’s missing out on healthy belonging and growth.

So, what did it take to let go of perfect?

I had to delve into why I “needed” to be perfect.

Workplaces cause harm because they’re full of people who’ve been harmed. Underneath it all, I’m a child that wants to be liked. Growing up, the eldest child in a…